sharing is caring: the Sharing Economy

One of my favourite childhood treats was a traditional Hamburg cookie called the Hanseat.  It was a simple, round, delicious cookie with a half pink and half white glaze; you could get them plain or filled with jam.  My sister and I ate these all the time when we were growing up in Germany, so during my trip I bought her one to make her smile.  Homeward bound, I finally arrived in Calgary, stayed with a friend, and drove myself home the next stay, stopping in Invermere at my sister’s work to present her with my gift!  I did not prepare myself for the drive in terms of food, so I was starving.  She had to leave her office for a minute.  I broke off a chunk of cookie and ate it.  She has not forgiven me since.  My response?  Sharing is caring.

Months ago I was driving, listening to CBC Radio and a segment came on about “The Sharing Economy”.  It was wildly interesting to me, as it was completely relevant with my interests in zero-waste and minimalism.  Some of the information was astounding, but also promising.

North Americans have too much stuff (obvi).  The U.S.A leads in having the biggest self-storage industry, and Canada is in close second.  Apartment dwellers tend to have limited space, so renting a self-storage unit may be applicable.  However, our homes nowadays have basements, attics, and we tend to have garages, etc, yet people are still feeling the need for more space for their stuff, so they pay money to rent another garage to store more of their crap, instead of downsizing and re-evaluating (check out Andrea’s post on minimizing and a resourceful read).

One piece of the segment I found particularly interesting is the lifetime use of a power drill.  In the average home, a drill is used an average of 13 minutes in its entire lifetime.  Thirteen minutes!  And there are over 80 million North American homes that house a power drill.  Perspective?

In comes the Sharing Economy.  There are more and more sharing capabilities coming about nowadays, such as car-sharing, home-sharing, tool libraries, public libraries, clothing swaps, garden/land sharing, and, heck, even cheese sharing (as Tammy suggested on Gippsland Unwrapped)!  This definitely fits into the zero-waste and minimalist lifestyle, as you are not having to purchase new items that probably come wrapped in copious amounts of plastic packaging, and will end up taking up space in your home, probably collecting more dust than actually being useful.

Sure, the Sharing Economy will not benefit big companies, such as car rental, self-storage, taxi, etc, but there are always more than one way of doing things; specifically, there are always more sustainable ways of doing things.  Think back to your grandparents’ days.  I just got back from visiting my Oma who remembers her childhood during the second world war.  Everything was shared within the community.  Families cooked extra and used up every piece of an animal or vegetable, and then delivered leftovers to those who had very little.  Items were traded either for other items, or for services (i.e. I will help you harvest your potatoes and you will give me part of the harvest).  Things were not wasted.  They were used.  They were shared.  They were made to last!

With the abundance of THINGS in North America, I think sharing is a great way to not just lower your spending, or lessen our impact on the environment, but also to rediscover what it means to connect with those around you.  We are very far away from that, in my opinion, as we always seem to want things just for ourselves, to be able to call it mine, mine, mine.  Our economy is based on consumption, not sustainability.

The article on CBC is very interesting, and gives lots of resources in the way of apps and organizations that are based on sharing resources.  Give it a read and have a look if there is something useful for you or something that you did not know before.  And next time you need a power drill, maybe just ask your neighbour first!

What sharing resources are available in your town?  What have you experienced in terms of the Sharing Economy?  Please share!

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16 thoughts on “sharing is caring: the Sharing Economy

    • My hometown isn’t very large either, and I have not heard of anyone using uber here. We are also quite behind in the zero waste side of life, which is disappointing. I guess I’ll stick to small scale sharing! Thanks for commenting!

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  1. I have been working on finding ways to implement a sharing economy on my college campus. Specifically, I’m going to look into a carpooling system for students through the commuting center. Me and my other zero waste friend have been sharing between ourselves but that’s expected when you are best friends in general, especially zero waste/minimalism friends!

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    • First of all, how lucky are you to have a ZW/minimalist friend?! Haha my friends just think I’m nuts. That’s ok though. Good for you for wanting to implement carpooling; that’s a fantastic idea, and I’m sure if you plan or initiate it you will definitely have interest from other students!

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  2. Wow…I didnt know that fact about the power drill. When I made a cross country move from Los Angeles to NYC, I threw away or donated so much. It was sobering how much you accumulate over the years. Since I’m starting my life in NYC with a clean slate in terms of material goods, I definitely try to think about every item I buy. Space is limited in the city and I question whether I really need it or not. From my move, I learned how heavy books are to ship and I’m not even certain all my books made it. I no longer buy print books. I either borrow from a library, borrow from friends’ personal library or go digital.

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    • Having to move definitely gives you new insight to how much stuff you actually have. It can be a daunting task to pack up everything. My perspective on material goods has also been changing over the past year, and I have been able to part with hundreds of items that others are now making good use of. I am not sure why we feel the need to hold on to so many meaningless things! Thanks for commenting 🙂

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  3. Unfortunately, our county’s library system doesn’t have a tool sharing program, but there are definitely other places in my state that do. I try to borrow tools from my in-law’s or our neighbors (they don’t mind!) before going out and buying something (although we do have a power drill :). I also trade cello lessons for our neighbor’s child for them watching our cats while we’re away.

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    • That is a great idea trading the instrument lessons for cat-sitting! Our neighbours recently asked us to feed their cat for a couple of days while they were away. Of course we were happy to do it (I love cats and have one too), and they gifted us a dining gift card when they came back. I appreciated their kind gesture, but it totally wasn’t necessary, as I would have maybe just kept it open as a rain-check-cat-sitting when we go out of town and need them to watch over ours.

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  4. Love this!
    I must admit I’m skeptical about uber – I’ve heard too many bad things about the company and the guys who started it. But the idea of the sharing economy (and, especially, connecting with your local community to help fulfil everyone’s needs) is fantastic.

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    • What have you heard of uber? I haven’t done my research on the company, but had my first uber experience in Seattle; it was interesting! I’ve also done the Airbnb, which was pretty neat (as long as you get respectable renters, of course). Do you have any sharing initiatives in your area?

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      • The worst I’ve heard about uber was that they’ve tried to cover up incidents where drivers raped passengers. But there are other ethically questionable behaviors including tax avoidance, encouraging drivers to break the law (here in NZ), keeping their costs low by minimising the pay and other benefits they give to drivers (such as no health insurance in the US), and surge pricing when demand spikes during emergency events. I’ve also heard nasty things about the founder of uber but I’m afraid I can’t remember any details. That said, uber are popular here because regular taxis are so expensive. And they’ve partnered with organisations like the SPCA for promotional events.

        I’ve used airbnb a few times around New Zealand and had good experiences with it. I’ve also used freecycle here. I have heard of other examples of sharing in my region, like carpooling initiatives, maker spaces, repair cafes, and time banking. I suspect there are a lot more examples but they’re not so well known and often don’t have a strong online presence, which makes them harder to find out about.

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  5. This is so awesome, I think the sharing economy is really interesting. I live in Toronto and this makes me think of Bunz, a growing Facebook network. People trade things, ideas, advice, booze, subway tokens, etc. I really appreciate when people clean out their apartments, instead of sending everything to the curb that they don’t want, trading them off or giving them away for free through this network. I’m definitely going to check out that CBC segment.

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    • Thanks for reading, Emma! We don’t have that many sharing options where I live, but I love the whole idea of it, and I think it’s more prevalent in bigger cities (I could be wrong). We have FB pages like a local buy & sell, but that’s not surrounding sharing. I think it would be great to have more options.

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  6. There’s certainly a lot of potential with this as far as power tools/tools in general are concerned. The difficulty comes from ensuring that everyone looks after the kit with the same level of care and respect. It only takes one heavy handed so and so to break something and ruin it for everyone else. I guess that’s why vetting and registration is needed though.

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